by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.Like mile markers in time, certain calendar dates stand in memory as not only historic, but momentous. Dates like Dec. 7, 1941, and Sept. 11, 2001, represent far more than mere days on a calendar. Now, May 17, 2004, must be added to that list. Why? Because this day-by the unilateral decision of activist judges-the State of Massachusetts legalized same-sex "marriages." This is a day that will live in moral infamy. Civilization itself has been attacked by forces that would redefine marriage, normalize homosexuality, and transform our understanding of family, gender, parenthood, and human relationships. Ironically, the Massachusetts General Assembly had not long before passed a proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex "marriages." When the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts handed down its infamous Goodridge decision last November mandating same-sex "marriages," public outcry forced the legislature to act. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also opposes same-sex "marriage," and he sought an emergency stay from the Supreme Judicial Court in order to allow the people of Massachusetts to make their will known, rather than base such a momentous act on seven judges who voted 4-3 in their decision. Even if the proposed constitutional amendment is passed by vote of the people, it cannot take effect until 2006. Appeals to federal courts were unsuccessful, as the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene. Another federal appeals court was scheduled to rule on the issue in early June but few expected that court to stop the marriage licenses from being issued. As expected, the religious enablers of the homosexual movement celebrated this "victory" and scheduled a busy week of weddings. In Cambridge, a multi-faith service called "Blessings on the Eve of History" was held at the historic Christ Church on Sunday night before the day of infamy. According to the Washington Post, the service featured ministers and rabbis fanning out in the congregation to bless homosexual couples. In the sermon, Steven Charleston acknowledged that opponents of same-sex "marriage" believe such unions will end civilization. "Perhaps they are right," he said. The Postreported that the congregation greeted that line with "wild applause." The Unitarian Universalist Association-the far-left religious body headquartered in Boston-announced its intention to make history by "marrying" large numbers of same-sex couples as quickly as possible-including Hillary and Julie Goodridge, the lead couple in the court decision that now bears their name. The Unitarian Universalist congregation in Littleton held a special "Freedom to Marry Sunday" on May 16, opening the service with trumpet fanfares and testimonies from homosexual couples. The state's Episcopalian priests, on the other hand, were forbidden to marry such couples, out of concern for the larger church-though all three bishops in the state are supporters of homosexual "marriage." Despite the ban, Carter Heyward, a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, said she would defy the bishops and perform same-sex "marriages." She was one of eleven women who were irregularly ordained in 1974, when the Episcopal Church did not ordain women. She told the Boston Glob that her rebellion against the bishops was a form of "constructive disobedience." What harm will all this mean for Massachusetts, for the nation, and for marriage? The harm is first to the institution of marriage itself. Massachusetts has joined the Netherlands, Belgium, and three provinces of Canada as the only major jurisdictions where homosexual couples can "marry." If this decision stands, marriage will never be the same again. Humanity's most venerable and cherished institution has been redefined by a few in the secular elite in the name of liberation-and it will inevitably be destroyed in the process. The Massachusetts court ruled that marriage should be seen as a basically secular institution and thus is open to secular reinterpretation and redefinition. But this logic ignores the fact that church and state have shared a common understanding of marriage at the basic level: that it is the union of a man and a woman. That stands no more. From this point onward, the believing church must know that its definition of marriage is not shared by the state. This will lead to truly tragic levels of confusion-and perhaps even to coercion. C. S. Lewis rightly described the Christian understanding of marriage as "based on Christ's words that a man and his wife are to be regarded as a single organism." As he continued, "The male and the female were to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined." Marriage was given to humanity at creation, when God instituted marriage as the most basic unit of human civilization-the most fundamental building block of society. Marriage regulates sexuality, provides the man and woman with protection and partnership, and creates context for procreation and the successful raising of children. Marriage creates the household and establishes the family unit. Without marriage, social and sexual anarchy are set loose, and human suffering will inevitably follow. None of this will be obvious in the media coverage. Instead, reporters and analysts tell the nation that happy couples were joined in homosexual "marriages"-and that marriage still stands. It will, of course-at least for a time. But, like a crack that begins in the corner of a window and then slowly spreads across the pane, marriage will suffer the slow death of a thousand insults. Once marriage no longer means the union of a man and a woman, it can and will mean anything. Once it means anything, it means nothing. Only those who define marriage by a transcendent standard will retain the cherished memory of what marriage once was-and among biblical Christians, what marriage must always be. A conservative, said Russell Kirk, "is a person who sees human society as an immortal contract between God and man, and between the generations that are dead, and the generation that is living now, and the generations which are yet to be born." We have witnessed the breaking of this immortal contract. This is a day that will live in moral infamy. The attacks on Pearl Harbor, New York, and Washington awakened the nation to peril and called citizens to action. That must happen once again, as millions of Americans must now awaken to the fact that an out-of-control judiciary and an army of social engineers are forcing their will upon us. If the Massachusetts decision is allowed to stand, this nation faces nothing less than moral disaster. America is now a nation at war with itself, and with marriage.